Reporting greenhouse gas emissions: LDCs’ 20-year journey

As the least developed countries (LDCs) prepare to meet the demands of a more stringent climate reporting framework, an IIED report examines the LDCs’ reporting history and distils recommendations for meeting the new requirements.

Fernanda Alcobé's picture
Insight by 
Fernanda Alcobé
Fernanda Alcobé is a researcher in IIED’s Climate Change research group
01 June 2021
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A panel of people sit at a desk facing seated guests, in front of a screen showing a steeply rising graph

After a week-long heatwave across Europe in June 2019, SBSTA chair Paul Watkinson closes the SBSTA plenary at the Bonn climate change conference with the same image he showed at the opening plenary: the Keeling Curve, a graph of the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere (Photo: IISD/ENB Kiara Worth, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

By the end of 2024, all countries that are party to the Paris Agreement will start implementing the new ‘enhanced transparency framework’ (ETF).

The ETF – significantly more demanding and stringent than previous climate reporting systems – has been designed so countries can track and report on progress towards their national mitigation and adaptation commitments.

The framework makes climate change reporting more transparent, building trust among parties and encouraging them to set more ambitious emission reduction targets. These targets are crucial for delivering the overarching, long-term goal of the Paris Agreement: to limit global warming to 2°C, and ideally below 1.5°C.

But this enhanced set of reporting rules presents the least developed countries (LDCs) with new technical and financial challenges. These are the world’s 46 poorest countries, and they are already struggling to meet current climate reporting demands.  

Are the LDCs ready for the ETF?

Reporting on emissions targets

One of the ETF’s core requirements is for countries to report on their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and action to reduce them. National GHG inventories – listing human-induced domestic GHG emissions for a certain year or period − are central to this.

These inventories enable countries to understand the magnitude and sources of their current and historic contribution to global emissions, define policies and measures to reduce emissions, and assess if they are on track to meet their emissions reduction targets.

Reporting information on GHG emissions is not new; the process has been embedded in the reporting requirements of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since its signature in 1992.

In 1997, Senegal was the first LDC to submit its national GHG inventory as part of its ‘national communication’ − the official country report on actions implemented to combat climate change. Since then, all LDCs have submitted more than 100 national communications.

A new IIED report analyses the challenges LDCs faced in preparing and reporting their GHG inventories over the last 20 years, explores why and how obstacles came about, and presents recommendations that would enable LDCs to meet the future requirements of the ETF.

LDCs’ reporting gaps and needs

To develop GHG inventories, countries must gather and compile quantitative information on human activities that generate emissions – such as fuel consumption, crop production, livestock farming – and prepare emissions estimates using agreed methodological guidelines.

This is a complex process involving multiple organisations and stakeholders including ministries, statistical agencies, private sector and academia, and requires strong technical expertise.

LDCs reported factors hindering preparation of their inventories over the last 20 years. These relate to insufficient quality data and technical expertise, difficulties in collecting and managing information, and poor institutional structure and coordination between organisations.


Self-identified capacity gaps by cluster and national communication (NC) report

As well as capacity gaps, LDCs also identified where they needed support to develop, maintain and compile their GHG inventories.

This included support to obtain or improve primary data, for example by developing manuals and studies to understand emissions in different sectors. Other needs expressed were accessing technology such as computers and software, and having internet connection strong enough to collect, manage and process relevant data.

At institutional level, LDCs need support to embed the reporting process into institutions, assigning clear roles and responsibilities. Finally, LDCs outlined the importance of being able to access finance to strengthen their technical and institutional capacities.

Towards the ETF: increasing LDC capacities to improve reporting

Based on our analysis of LDCs’ experiences in compiling GHG inventories we propose recommendations that would help LDCs meet the ETF’s reporting requirements.

  • With the right methodological guidance, LDCs would be able to analyse their capacity gaps and needs more systematically. This analysis can inform national capacity building activities and guide donors and multilateral initiatives in programme design.
  • Stronger technical capacities would enable LDCs to prepare more complete and accurate reports. Training on inventory software and methodological guidelines, developing national GHG emissions models, and making these models available in universities, research institutes and non-governmental organisations would expand the national pool of experts. This in turn would bolster primary data collection and development.
  • At the political level, policymakers should seek to move away from a ‘fly-in, fly-out’ consultant model and institutionalise the reporting process. Having domestic institutional arrangements between a lead inventory agency, national inventory management team and data provider institutions – each with clear roles and responsibilities – is fundamental for smooth reporting.  

But for LDCs to have robust nationally-owned reporting processes and meet the ETF’s requirements, the international support system also has to change.

Long and cumbersome processes to access international support hinder LDCs in increasing technical and institutional capacities and preparing timely reports. Financial institutions need to move from short-term projects to multi-year programmes with simplified procedures and streamlined approval and disbursement processes.

The ETF brings new challenges to LDCs. But it also brings the opportunity to take stock and draw on their 20 years of reporting experience.

The LDCs have shown true leadership in the global push for climate action, and by working towards implementing the ETF will play their part in delivering the ambition of the long-term Paris Agreement goals – at the same time, putting pressure on other countries to follow suit.